Panic on a Plate (not climate related)

by | Jan 12, 2012

Nothing to do with climate change… Or not much, anyway… Food, rather than climate alarmism…

If you’re in or near Oxford next week, you may be interested in an event I’m hosting….

The Oxford Salon will launch in the new year. Our first event will be kicked off by Rob Lyons, deputy editor of Spiked, and author of Panic on a Plate  – How Society Developed an Eating Disorder.

From the review:

The availability, range, cost and quality of food in Western societies have never been more favourable, yet food is also the focus of a great deal of anxiety. There are concerns that our current diets will mean we will get steadily fatter and more unhealthy while consuming junk food’, with consequences for our quality of life, our children’s behaviour and even the environment. This book challenges these ideas and places the food debate in a wider context. As the political imagination and the scope of social policy have narrowed, the focus on the personal and corporeal has filled this gap, creating an inward, individualised perspective that breeds a personal sense of vulnerability and distracts from issues of broader social importance. The book also examines the current use of food as metaphor the way that bad food and obesity, for example, have become code words for an elite disdain for the masses, implicitly promoting the idea that the consequences of poverty are the fault of the poor, and that a solution to the problems of social inequality lies in the consumption of five fruit and veg a day. The author also discusses how health fears around food are used as a lever for greater official control of our everyday lives, from lunchbox inspections and school food crusades, to endless media health advice and scientifically-dubious healthy labelling initiatives. The upshot of these connected trends is misplaced anxiety and wasted effort fixing what, for the most part, does not need to be fixed. Our modern food system allows us to be healthier than ever before, while transforming food from fuel into a source of entertainment, pleasure and choice.

Rob Lyons will present the main arguments from his book, which will be followed by Q&A and a discussion about the issues raised, such as:

  • What is meant by ‘junk food’?
  • Are we really getting fatter and does it really matter?
  • Is it right for the state to offer us guidance on our diets, and to try to get us to eat healthily?
  • Are campaigning celebrety chefs and nutritionists good for us?

More information on the Oxford Salon website and Facebook group.

And here’s the author himself, talking about his book.


  1. Alex Cull

    Food is definitely the source of much moral turmoil in the media, as those of us who watch TV programmes like BBC Breakfast can attest – they have been known to serve up a movable feast of food scare stories, with obesity one morning, alcohol the next, obesity again after that, and so on, seasoned with the occasional salt scare. I’m looking forward to reading Panic on a Plate for an alternative point of view.

    Interestingly, the “get your 5-a-day” message (which appears to be even more widespread than “cut your carbon footprint”) has come in for some knocks in recent years, what with the Mount Sinai study in 2010, and also critics such as Zoe Harcombe getting media publicity. Even many who believe that eating more fruit and veg is a good thing (I’m not averse to them myself) have criticised 5-a-day campaigns as representing a dumbed-down and patronising approach – and it’s also a failed approach (if last year’s news stories about ever fewer people in the UK hitting the 5-a-day target are accurate.)

  2. Jack Hughes

    My daughter was the victim the lunchbox stasi at her primary school. I let the incident go – not wanting to be the Chocolate Bun Dad.

    If it happened now I would go ape.


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